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Wisconsin

December 3, 2009

Assembly Bill 119: Mandatory Kindergarten

Author:
Representatives Smith, Pope-Roberts, Berceau, Richards, Soletski, Colon, Sinicki, Mason, Pasch, Fields, Hebl, Benedict, Hixson, Milroy, Clark, Zigmunt, Bernard Schaber and A. Ott, cosponsored by Senators Coggs, Lehman, Carpenter, Vinehout, Plale and Robson.

Summary:
Under current law, attendance in school is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 18. A child who has reached the age of 4 years may enroll in 4-year-old kindergarten if the school district in which the child resides operates a 4-year-old kindergarten program, and a child who has reached the age of 5 years may enroll in 5-year-old kindergarten. However, enrollment in and the completion of kindergarten is not required.

Beginning in the 2011–12 school year, this bill requires a child to complete 5-year-old kindergarten as a prerequisite to being admitted to first grade in a public school, including a charter school. The bill permits a school board and the operator of an independent charter school to establish policies, standards, conditions, and procedures for the parent or guardian of a child to seek an exemption from the requirement that the child complete kindergarten. The bill also requires a child who is enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten in a public or private school to regularly attend kindergarten during the school year.

Status:

3/7/2009 (Assembly) Introduced by Representatives Smith, Pope-Roberts, Berceau, Richards, Soletski, Colon, Sinicki, Mason, Pasch, Fields, Hebl, Benedict, Hixson, Milroy, Clark, Zigmunt, Bernard Schaber and A. Ott; cosponsored by Senators Coggs, Lehman, Carpenter, Vinehout, Plale and Robson.
3/14/2009 (Assembly) Read first time and referred to committee on Education
3/17/2009 (Assembly) Public hearing held
3/24/2009 (Assembly) Fiscal estimate received
3/31/2009 (Assembly) Assembly substitute amendment offered by Rep. Smith
5/19/2009 (Assembly) Bill passed out of Assembly Education
6/16/2009 (Assembly) Referred to Rules Committee
9/10/2009 (Assembly) Placed on Assembly calendar for 9/16/09
9/16/2009 (Assembly) Passed Assembly
9/21/2009 (Senate) Read first time in Senate
9/22/2009 (Senate) Passed Senate
9/22/2009 (Senate) Received from Senate
9/30/2009 (Assembly) Report correctly enrolled
10/6/2009 Presented to Governor
10/6/2009 Report approved by the Governor
10/6/2009Published

This bill has been signed by the governor and is now law.

HSLDA's Position:
HSLDA opposes this bill.

Action Requested:
None at this time.

Background:
While the bill purports to make these programs optional, history shows us that there will be subsequent pressure to make them mandatory, universal, and funded with taxpayer dollars.

Lowering the compulsory attendance age from 6 to 5 would subject Wisconsin home educators to the requirements of the homeschool statute one year earlier than now required. (You do not need to share this reason with your legislators.)

Many education experts have concluded that beginning a child’s formal education too early may actually result in burnout and poor scholastic performance later.

Lowering the compulsory attendance age erodes the authority of parents who are in the best position to determine when their child’s formal education should begin.

Another significant impact of expanding the compulsory attendance age would be an inevitable tax increase to pay for more classroom space and teachers to accommodate the additional students compelled to attend public schools. When California raised the age of compulsory attendance, unwilling students were so disruptive that new schools had to be built just to handle them and their behavior problems, all at the expense of the taxpayer.

For more information on compulsory attendance, please see our memorandum, “Compulsory Attendance Age Legislation.”

 Other Resources

E-lert—Sept. 22, 2009—Wisconsin: Calls Needed Today to Stop Early Education Bill

Bill Text (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History